Hiking the Santa Rosa Plateau: Vernal Pool Trail, Los Santos Trail, Trans-Preserve Trail

Participants: Craig Cheetham and Tom Chester
Date: 30 January 1997 (Written up 21 March 1997)
Numbers: 6 miles, ~450' elevation gain.

We started from the Vernal Pool Trailhead, and hiked to the main pool on Mesa de Colorado. The two pools near the trailhead were both still full. An extension to the boardwalk at the big pool had been added due to the large size of the pool. However, possibly because there was a wind of about 10 mph from the north, the pool was slightly lower near the boardwalk then it had been on 17 January.

The trail to the pool was pretty muddy in two main places, one near the trailhead. It doesn't get worse once you get past that one.

We backtracked to the Los Santos Trail, which itself was pretty muddy in places. Near the beginning, descending into a little canyon, there is a little stream flowing north. It looks like there is a small place of standing water, but the stream is just wide at that point.

There were some neat white flowers on a plant about a foot high, with clusters of 5-10 flowers on top. I couldn't recognize the leaves. Some blue dicks were just about to open.

Going west on the ranch road, there is a sign "Walter B. Gerken overlook loop trail, 0.5 mile" and one crosses a nice bridge over a creek. Shortly after passing a trail junction, which is the other part of the loop, we saw what we were pretty sure was a mountain lion on the ridge to our left. This was the first time in literally thousands of miles of hiking that I saw a mountain lion, which certainly gave me something to think about for a while. Fortunately, we had no trouble with it, although I picked up a large stick just in case.

At the top of the hill, there is a nice wooden bench with a plaque on it saying:

Dedicated to Walter B. Gerken, chairman of the board 1990-1996, Nature Conservancy of California; a champion of California's natural landscape

This is a great place to stop and eat lunch! The views are stupendous. Some of the things you can see are:

The trail has now apparently been extended to the north to connect to the new parking area, but we doubled back past the bench. We were a little uncertain about the trail there until we got to the bench because the trail was pretty covered by vegetation.

As we continued on the Ranch Road, we initially erred and did not take the turn to the right at the windmill. Instead, we continued curving along the road, which soon headed directly back toward the hill with the bench on it! Once we realized the error of our ways, we doubled back and crossed the creek at the windmill. A crew had just finished placing a bridge across the creek, which was necessary to avoid getting seriously wet crossing the creek.

We decided to take the Trans-Preserve Trail back to my car due to lack of time, although we had intended to hike through to the Operations Center, where we had left Craig's car.

I went back to the main pool to see if I could get a better measurement of its depth, if the wind had stopped blowing, but the depth was about the same as measured previously.

Explanation of column headings

Detailed Hiking Log
Recording numberMileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.009:57 1700Vernal Pool Trailhead.
10.7010:17 1650Main Pool.
20.7510:52 1650Leaving main pool.
31.3011:07 1700Jct. Los Santos Trail.
42.0011:34  Dropping off Plateau.
52.1011:42  Good views of Mesa de Burro to right. Repeated muddy, marshy areas along trail that need to be crossed carefully.
62.4011:56 1700North end of Los Santos Trail. Went left (west) on Ranch Road.
72.5012:06 1600Jct bridge: "Walter B. Gerken overlook loop trail, 0.5 mile". Ranch road continued ahead, took bridge.
82.5512:10  Trail going off to left is the "loop-back" trail.
92.7512:15 1700Top of hill. End of loop. Lunch stop.
102.851:04 1750After going to top of next hill to north and back.
113.051:08  End of loop; back on main trail.
123.251:13 1650Jct. north end of Los Santos Trail; continue on Ranch Road.
133.451:25  Little "mud pot" in middle of road. It was a spring with a trickle of water that had air bubbling out at times.
144.001:36 1700Whoops! heading back to hilltop with bench. Turned around.
154.251:41 1700Back at U of Ranch Road. Took 90° turn to left across creek.
164.351:47 1650Went right (south) on Trans Presrve Trail.
175.002:11 1800Left on Vernal Pool Trail back to pool
185.252:18 1850Main Pool.
195.752:34 1800Car at Vernal Pool Trailhead.

Go to:

Copyright © 1997-2000 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 21 March 1997.